Health Care Marketing
Health care marketing has changed over the last 20 years, moving from a singular focus on promotion to one involving planning and research, contracting/pricing, distribution strategies, as well as branding and promotion. In addition, marketing a service, rather than a tangible product, creates challenges in that one can not separate the service from the provider of care. The opportunities lie in maximizing the patient care experience.
The "Marketing Mix"
The "marketing mix" concept includes the four P's: product, price, placement and promotion. Product refers to services delivered (e.g.; well child exam or orthopedic surgery). Price means what a customer pays for the service (e.g.; the surgeon's fee or an HMO insurance premium). Placement entails how the service is distributed (e.g.; location of a clinic). Finally, promotion represents any way of educating the customer about products and services. Although many people think of advertising, promotion can entail media relations, newsletters, Web sites and special events.
Different promotional vehicles will achieve different results for the consumers; please see the graphic to the right. Advertising does a good job of creating awareness that a service exists. Media relations and events can lend credibility, but the actual delivery of care is where the customer is won or lost. A great service experience will keep a customer coming back; conversely a bad experience can send the customer to the competition.
Objectives and Audiences
All marketing communication efforts should begin with a description of the target audience and the objectives of the initiative. The challenge is to send messages tailored to the audience's needs that also meet the organization's objectives. In addition the budget needs to realistically be set to achieve the objectives. And finally, evaluating the effectiveness of the communications should be completed by tracking and measuring results of the campaign.